DCPS board reaches tentative deal with teachers union

Union leader said deal is ‘not equitable, but it’s fair,’ urging employees to support pending agreement

News4Jax | by Joe McLean | December 7, 2020

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Duval County Public Schools board and Duval Teachers United have reached a tentative, three-year agreement, which includes pay raises for thousands of teachers but falls short of being considered by union leadership as a “fair” deal for veteran employees.

The 2020-2023 Teacher Unit Tentative Agreement Ratification Packet was distributed to the organization’s membership Friday and ratification ballots were sent out to members and non-members Monday.

The packet includes 18 different tentative pay schedules for different classifications of the 7,789 teachers, categorized by their role in the district, their level of experience, whether they’re on a grandfathered schedule or performance pay schedule, whether they’re a member of DTU, etc.

The schedules also consider the employee’s pay difference relative to the recently enacted HB 641, which provided state funding to move the minimum starting salary for teachers to $47,000 or as high as the bill’s $400,000 state-wide allocation allows. In Duval County, it’s $45,891.

The bill provides Duval County with $22,882,843 for teacher salary increases, $18,306,274 or 80% of which is earmarked for raising the minimum base teacher salary, and the other 20% or $4,576,569 can be used for boosting the pay of other instructional personnel.

The frustration in many districts, including Duval County’s, is that raising the base salary offers veteran teachers a fraction of the raise that newer, less-experienced teachers are provided. These same frustrations caused Clay County’s union negotiations to reach an impasse in November.

Brady and other union members told News4Jax that they understand that this equity issue was created in Tallahassee — not the Duval County School Board chamber.

“We knew it was going to be a financial hardship because, frankly, this is the year that there’s not a lot of money, we want to at least do step movement for veteran teachers on the grandfather [pay schedule], and do the performance pay of what teachers would have gotten in the 2018-19 school year if the test had been given in the 2019-20 year,” DTU president Terrie Brady told News4Jax. “So, our School Board allocated $3 million to help make this work, and we were able to meet that need to pay them their performance pay that they got in 2018-19.”

Brady said while she believes the tentative deal is still not equitable, it’s as fair as can be under the situation created by HB 641, which siphoned off the funds that had been distributed through the Best and Brightest teacher bonus incentive program.

“We want to at least maintain for our veteran teachers, it is not equitable, it’s not fair. But I think they got what our county wanted to do to give them what they got, at least last year, they got the step movement, and they got their performance pay,” Brady said. “The school board actually went back three times to end up coming up with the $3 million extra above and beyond what the legislature gave us to try to do some fair compensation for these veteran teachers.”

The ballots are due and a vote on this agreement is scheduled for Dec. 17. If it fails to pass, the DTU and DCPS board negotiators would be sent back to the bargaining table in mid-January. At that time, Brady said, the union will have a better idea of the depth of anticipated state-level education cuts for the third quarter, brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect of the state economy.

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